Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 Reviewed

Internet Explorer 7

This week Microsoft released Beta 3 of Windows Internet Explorer 7, and NeoSmart Technologies has a review (with screenshots!) ready for our faithful readers and members.

Since Windows Vista was first announced, for many users Internet Explorer 7 was actually the big reward: a new version of what used to be the world’s favorite browser, and – for the most part – they weren’t disappointed. Despite the progress issues in Windows Vista, Internet Explorer 7 has been coming along fine, and this new version brings its (Lion’s) share of features and improvements. In short, this browser has come a long way and promises to put up a real fight against the competition that only so recently overtook IE7, namely the latest versions of Firefox and Opera. Beta 3 makes subtle changes to the GUI and display that give it a nicer, more “exotic” appeal; with IE7’s focus on softer highlights and shadows, it’s begging for Web 2.0 – but can it handle it?


Internet Explorer has several new features immediately apparent: subtle changes to the GUI and coloring that include that include a new “Add to Favorites” button, a more clear-cut refresh logo, a different stop button, softer highlights and midtones on the toolbar, and a more ‘refined’ Quick Tabs interface, with faster page updates and a more streamlined display.

But most of the changes are boiling just beneath the surface, such as the long-awaited and much-requested moveable tabs already present in the latest versions of Opera and Firefox/Minefield, much lighter memory usage, faster loading of new tabs, and a faster overall user experience. It is interesting to note that ever since Beta 1 there hasn’t been much in terms of heavy changes, which backs our belief that Internet Explorer 7 is and has long been very close to its final form – waiting on Vista and its development the entire time.


Internet Explorer 7 uses an almost entirely new code-base, and as we have seen countless times since the first beta, by-and-large the security holes revealed and patched in Internet Explorer 6 did not affect IE7, which is doubtlessly a good sign – very similar to Microsoft’s switch from IIS 5 to IIS 6 and the sudden accompanying upgrade in security and the drastic drop in the number of bugs.

Like previously mentioned, Microsoft’s biggest mistake was sticking to the buggy IE6 throughout the past 5 years – which was written when security wasn’t the big deal it is now, and as such not much time or effort was spent on bringing IE6 up to scratch – but that’s all changed with Internet Explorer 7. The new isolation of ActiveX controls (ironically brought around by a lawsuit and not by a brainstorm on the behalf of the developers) shields Internet Explorer 7 (and IE6 if the appropriate hotfix is installed) from what is at once its biggest security threat and its leading feature: on-the-fly integration of plugins and modules.

This feature is what made Internet Explorer so easy to use with regards to streaming music & video, and online game play, and fortunately the new isolation model doesn’t break this feature, it only fortifies its security and requires the plugin to be activated by clicking on it, no more, no less. The anti-phishing & popup blocking features in IE7 rival those of Opera and Firefox – we believe that at this point it’s difficult to go much further, but all still need a bit of tweaking here and there to complete this feature. We can now comfortably say the age of the popup is over – one down, 499 more to go.


We only wish that Internet Explorer 7’s compatibility improvements were even half of its improvements in security – it’s that bad. Technically (and only technically speaking), Internet Explorer 7 is a fairly standards-compliant browser, especially compared to IE6. Actually, Internet Explorer 7 is very compliant browser, but the problem is in how it interprets the data, and raises a question of whether pages should be displayed according to standards or according to the wishes of the designers – sometimes the difference is drastic: should the browser intervene?

IE6 did, but IE7 doesn’t, and it makes a big difference. The fact of the matter is that although Internet Explorer 7 passes most CSS 2.1 tests fairly well, when it comes right down to it, pages still won’t display in Internet Explorer the same they do in every other standards-compliant engine, from Gecko to Opera, and everything in between. For an example, look at this blog’s homepage and a sample post as taken from Internet Explorer 7. This site uses fairly standard coding techniques and is valid XHTML according to the W3C (in its design, but not always content). Is can be seen, Internet Explorer 7 has severe issues dealing with DIV tags that overlap.

In the second example, the “Previous Post” and “Next Post” near the top of the post are under one another when they should be on the same line – because Internet Explorer 7 still insists on outputting one DIV tag then the next one after it in most cases – something that Internet Explorer 6 did even worse, but nevertheless, IE7 isn’t perfect. In the first example the sponsored links (as a CSS-formatted list) is displayed a link for each line – while it was meant to show as two links a line. The code isn’t perfect, but then again, is it ever? Where the designers attempt to improvise with hacks and tricks that a browser has never before seen in order to get something to look the way they would like, the other browsers attempt to render it as the designer intended, but IE7 doesn’t. It seems that Internet Explorer 7 is stuck on either extreme; on one end IE6 improvises and changes the code at whim to make it look ‘right’ (though it fails miserably now, it used to be quite good when IE 5 came out), and Internet Explorer 7 refuses to use “quirks” mode, leaving a gap in the middle.

The Verdict

As we published a while back in our comparison of Opera, Internet Explorer, and Firefox; we made clear our belief that at this point in time, the world of online browsing has finally reached a point where, by-and-large, it doesn’t matter what browser a user chooses or how they decide to browse the web, for the most part pages will display the way they should, the users will be secure, and malware needs to find a new venue. This latest build of Internet Explorer 7 only strengthened our opinion.

Both ways, Microsoft and especially the Internet Explorer team have done a marvelous job on Internet Explorer 7, literally making it thousands of times better than IE6. It make take quite some time for the world to forget or overcome the taint that IE6 put on the Internet Explorer name, but in time we feel that Windows Internet Explorer will be a worthy contender in the browser wars, and make up for the shame of the past.

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16 thoughts on “Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 Reviewed

  1. Internet Explorer 7 is a very big step for Microsoft in more than one way.
    Besides the program itself, the IE7 model for post-RTM development is very different: MS promises regular builds – something they never did before!

    This review is superb, really really top-notch work (Y)

  2. “The code isn?t perfect, but then again, is it ever?”

    It soon will be if IE won’t render well anything less.

    For the last several years, Designers and webapp coders have spent ridiculous amounts of time on getting things to appear reasonably similar (and basically to spec) in all of the various browsers. If we no longer have to do that, we’ll have so much more time to devote to getting the code right.

  3. That’s a good point.

    If IE7 refuses to display corrupt code, but (and most importantly) provides a standard-compliant alternative, what you say could actually turn out to be one of the biggest revolutions online… For me it’s hard to imagine a universal web that displays the same everywhere with minimal effort – that’s like lawn mowing without the sweat or weeding without the weeds (!)

  4. I too was a great fan of IE7. I installed all the betas up to V3 when I ran into the dreaded access denied error!

    DoRegistryUpdates:UpdSpInstallFromInfSection Failed for ProductInstall.GlobalRegistryChanges.Install error: 0x5

    It is not possibe for me to install Beta 3 nor is it possible to go back to Beta 2. Both installers give the same error on install!

    I suspect the latest security patches released by Microsoft to be behind the problem. Why would Beta 2 previously install flawlessly and now refuse to install?

    Maybe Microsoft has finally fixed the bugs in Windows XP to susch an extent that the their Beta Software now refuses to install! :->

  5. Hello Niko,

    Try this: extract and copy iexplore.exe from the XP CD over the existing iexplore.exe for IE7 – then install Beta 1.
    Uninstall Beta 1.
    Install Beta 3.

  6. IE6 wasn’t the worst IE for its time; the nadir was IE4, which brought us “all the world’s a web page and your files are but icons on it” desktop integration.

    It’s been a long retreat from the exessive control given to webmasters over visitors’ PCs by IE4, but IE6 SP2 started to turn the tide and hopefully IE7 and Vista will follow through.

  7. Hi,

    First, thanks for the review. In response to your comment on divs misbehaving in IE7, you ran into a rounding problem in our engine when using percentages and floats. We will evaluate (since we are close to lockdown for shipping the product) if we can fix this for IE7.

    — Markus

  8. Hello Markus,

    I really appreciate the reply, and it means a lot when the IE Team reaches out like that, thank you :)

    If this isn’t fixed before the Internet Explorer 7 goes RTM (which from what I hear from our friends in your team is really close), would it be patched in perpetual updates to the browser or would we have to wait for Internet Explorer 7.5 or 8.0 for such a bug fix?


  9. Hi Nico Visagie,

    Do you use ZoneAlarm? Since you were able to install Beta 2 previously but not any more, it sounds like you’ve hit an issue with a recent ZoneAlarm update. There was a bug in v6.5.700 that caused people to be unable to change their homepage, even in IE6. Since IE7 touches the default home page for new users, that causes setup to fail. Some users have uninstall recent ZoneAlarm updates prior to installing IE7. You may also try updating ZoneAlarm again. I believe a more recent update – v6.5.722 – fixes the issue.

    If that still doesn’t allow you to install successfully, please file a bug following the links at and we’ll work with you more on getting the problem resolved.

    FYI: we’ve added code to setup to automatically check and fix permissions on registry keys but whatever method ZoneAlarm uses to lock this key prevents that from working.



  10. Johan,
    You are one clever man! :->

    I am… er… was using Zone Alarm V6.5.722 and no, the problem with it locking certain registry keys is till not fixed. I have no idea why it is necessary for a firewall to lock registry keys, except for it’s own, but then you are dealing with a world where 90% of computer users that idiots! I suppose Zone Labs is trying to protect those users from themselves!

    I uninstalled Zone Alarm and then installed a new firewall called COMODO from ( According to the reviews it is better than Zone Alarm. I ran the IE7 Beta 3 installer with the new firewall active and this time the install went right through. No problem what so ever.

    This is not the first time that Zone Alarm is causing problems on my computer. I had crashes in both Windows Defender Beta and Outlook 2003 from time to time and I am pretty sure that all that will disappear now.

    Thanks again!

  11. I think John knows it’s not fixed. Read his comment carefully.

    But wow! I am glad to have found this site, where Microsoft staff post on NST’s brilliant articles and people get help!

  12. Install went good and I like the new look. However, I could not get any of my streaming favorites to feed!? Restored back to previous point set up before installing IE 7 and all is well…? Am I missing something (Win XP with all SP2 updates current)? Even allowed all pop ups and reduced security to see if would help.

  13. Hi J McLin,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “streaming favorites to feed”. Can you provide more detail?

    If you mean your RSS feeds aren’t updating automatically, try disabling automatic feed updating, closing IE, restarting IE, and then enabling automatic feed updating. You can do so in Tools->Internet Options…->Content Tab and then ‘Settings…’ in the Feeds section.


    John [MSFT]

  14. I Have IE7beta3setup but whwnever i install the same. the problem occurs in validation method please guide me how do i crack it.


  15. Just wanted to chip in and say that ZONEALARM was causing all the problems that i was experiencing aswell. Could not install IE7 Beta 3 or RC1, and had problems with live messenger aswell due to the poor uninstall of Beta 2.
    I uninstalled ZA and everything installed perfectly. Thanks for the advice.

  16. IE 7 looks crap, and makes my fully skined (skined taskbars, icons, mouse and everything els) computer look like its a regular computer. <b>Mozzilla firefox</b> is what to use if your going for looks and a reliable browser.

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